August 5, 2011
We Are Cunard
The future belongs to the youngsters of today. Today I want to share a very special blog with you written by one of our guests – 16 year old Matt Venner. Matt recently travelled across the Atlantic Ocean on Queen Mary 2 and he asked if he could share his experiences on our blog – to which the answer was ‘of course, we would love you to’. So – through the eyes of a bright 16 year old – here we go……
Guest on board Queen Mary 2
Nothing can prepare you for the sheer size of Queen Mary 2. Her giant white superstructure towers above the new ocean terminal in Southampton and you never quite remember how massive she is. When we arrived, my eyes just kept going up. I had totally forgotten how tall she is, always dominating the skyline, not that it bothers me at all, because isn’t she a beautiful thing?
The terminal itself is fantastic. The boarding system that Cunard have adopted is brilliant, and we thought they should do the same at airline check in! The lettered cards are a great idea. Not only do they split up hoards of people into manageable sized groups, but they also build excitement as everyone eagerly awaits the call of their letter.
Once you get on the ship itself, there really is nothing quite like it; it’s hard to take it all in. Smiling faces at the door are ready to greet you and show you to anywhere you need, the massive expanse of the Grand Lobby stretches all around you, and the wide hallways reach to each end of the ship and the most important public areas. It’s one of the most fantastic public spaces I have ever experienced; the lobby is just as you would imagine a classic liner’s to be, including a double staircase, white and black wood and red carpets.
Almost everyone has asked me what my favourite part of the trip was, and to be honest I can’t say one thing over the others, it was all perfect and I really could not fault anything. If I had to choose though, I would say the wonderful Cunard service. For me it isn’t just the White Star Standard, it’s all the personal touches from everyone. Nothing is too much hassle, and everything is served with a massive smile and impeccable manners – I could definitely get used to being called Sir at 16 years old on a day to day basis. One member of staff that comes straight to mind is one of the head waiters in the Britannia Restaurant. Every time we saw him he chatted away, and always cheered us up when we were tired in the morning. Another great part of cruising is the people you meet. We were lucky enough to meet some wonderful people, from our brilliantly chatty fellow diners, to the people we bumped into round the decks and in the pools and Jacuzzis.
Possibly the best highlight of the voyage, was Monday 25th July. The whole day was stunning. The sun shone all day and the decks were packed with people enjoying cloudless blue skies, but perhaps some of the best moments I can recall from my entire childhood came in the early afternoon. We spotted a small group of dolphins off the port side; everyone rushed over and gazed at the ocean waiting for any small glimpse of the prize.
After our appetites were wetted by this short encounter, the wildlife obliged. Pods of dolphins and whales came past the boat all afternoon. No sooner was one group out of sight, swimming past the boat, than we caught a glimpse of the next group coming just ahead of the bow. They were heading the opposite direction to us, and literally came in their hundreds. We learnt later in the day that it had been one of the best days the Queen Mary 2 had ever had, and an estimated 500 dolphins and whales passed the boat throughout the day. We were in heaven. On our own private balcony, overlooking perfectly clear aqua seas, completely flat and reminiscent of shimmering silk, with nothing but the ripples from the bow wave, and pods of dolphins swimming right by our window, perhaps only about 50 metres away at their closest, coming from underneath the ship and jumping right before our eyes.
Another transatlantic wonder is the sunsets, and sunrises. The sunset on our penultimate night was absolutely stunning, and the panorama I took doesn’t really show it in all its glory – it was breathtaking.
At the end of our voyage was the fantastic entrance to New York harbour. Here the sunrise was stunning. Never have I seen such pink skies in the morning. If anyone hasn’t yet tried it, it really should be on your list of “things to do before you die”, standing on the top deck of the tallest ocean liner in the world, as people are talking in hushed whispers that grow into small yelps as the funnel approaches the Verrazano bridge. They say 4 metres clearance but it doesn’t even look like 4 feet! The atmosphere on deck is unlike anything I’ve felt. Everyone is staring at one specific point waiting to see if it will fit, and right up until the last moment, no one believes it will (even those who have experienced it before!) It is beyond exciting.
As we slipped into New York, through the metaphoric gates of the Verrazano Bridge supports, to quote one of the fantastic lecturers we had on board, Bill Miller:
“We became another sparkling jewel on the magic bracelet that is New York City.”
As for my final word; the Queen Mary 2 is a fantastic liner. I can’t find words that do it justice but I would sail again on her tomorrow if I could. I had a magical experience.
Thank you so much Matt and we are all so pleased that you offered to share your experiences with us. At Cunard Line we don’t often talk about how many families and youngsters we have sailing with us. However at this time of year we can have as many as 300 youngsters on board for a crossing. We have good facilities for them and the scale of the ships means that guests are never really aware of just how many youngsters we have on board. I really enjoy seeing young children – and teenagers – dressed for dinner on a formal night. I am sure there must be many conversations prior to dniner along the lines of ‘Dad – I am not wearing that jacket and that funny bow-tie thing’. But wear them they do – and memories they create for the whole family. It reminds me of one of my own Queen Mary 2 family memories.
Back in 2004 there was much excitement in the Shanks Family household when I announced we would all be going on the first Queen Mary 2 ‘shakedown’ voyage for two nights – we would be amongst the first to sail on the most famous ship in the world. As my wife and two daughters (14 and 12 at the time) travelled down the M3 to join the ship I called them to say that we would all be staying in a four-bed inside stateroom. I stressed that it would be rather embarrassing for them to be seen to be complaining about this and they had to be on their best behaviour. On arrival at the QE2 Terminal, they were met by a Butler and taken up to The Balmoral Duplex Suite where I was waiting to meet them. I shall always remember the look on my daughters faces – they were not after all in a four-bed inside stateroom, they were about to ‘shakedown’ the largest suite at sea. Reading Matt’s blog reminds me of just how exciting and special Queen Mary 2 is. As a family we still treasure all the photos from that ‘shakedown’ – and every cabin we have stayed in since has been somewhat of a disappointment by comparison. I hope that Matt treasures his memories and I hope he has thanked his mother for giving him that opportunity – I am sure he has. We look forward to Matt – and many youngsters like him – travelling with us in the future and ensuring the continued success of Cunard Line for many, many years to come.
Have a good weekend wherever you are.